In 1938 Johan Huizinga, a well respected Dutch scholar, formulated a theory on games. He developed the hypothesis that when playing games one enters a "magic circle" in which the player is bound by a make-believe barrier created by the game. The players exist within this circle, and are thus forced to abide by the rules of the game when inside, yet upon exiting the "circle" regain consciousness of the outside world. This circle is used to declare an actual separation between playing the game and the real world. When inside, the player must conform to a system which exists completely separate from the outside world. Of course, Huizinga lived in a period where video games would not come to existence for another twenty years, yet his theory can easily be applied to video games.
Huizinga's inference is one which is rather agreeable in a sense that a game is truly disconnected from the outside world. When one plays Halo, they aren't in actuality "powning noobs" with their sniper rifle, they are simply submitting themselves to the confines of the game and playing by those particular rules. A division is made between GTA and the outside world as well; one is not really roaming the streets of Vice City committing a series of murders. An anti-video game advocate may argue that the boundaries of this magical circle are thin and younger players may not be able to decipher the clear separation between being inside the circle playing the game and outside the circle leading a normal life. It is my opinion, however, that any human is capable of deciphering when they are existing within the circle or living their normal life.
Huizinga's theory states that once game play is over, the game completely leaves that person and has no true effect on them. This is different from someone not being able to understand when they're in the circle or outside of the circle. It is my belief that a game is more than simply a quick entrance and exit of the circle. Games stay with you for hours after play. Huizinga writes that games are, “an activity connected with no material interest.” Huizinga clearly never spent days attempting to beat Super Mario Brothers 3, where one can become completely consumed with the obsession of completing the game. In this instance, the boundaries of the magic circle become increasingly vague because the game does not simply exit your mind after play. Video games possess the capability to mentally attach to a player long after the game is complete. One can only ponder what Huizinga would have thought about video games today.